Microsoft Convinces Yet Another Company to Cough Up 'Protection' Money

from the you-wouldn't-want-something-bad-to-happen,-would-you? dept

Neppe alerts us to the news that Microsoft has claimed yet another victory in its war on the Linux Operating System. According to multiple reports, including Thinq_, the Register and others, Casio has coughed up an undisclosed amount of money to "license" the Linux operating system from Microsoft.

Microsoft has been claiming since 2007 that Linux infringes on 235 patents. If you go back to 2004, it was just 228. Despite the lack of any public list of these patents, Microsoft has been able to use them quite skillfully in convincing a number of software and hardware vendors to pay licensing fees. Microsoft claims that such licensing deals are for the benefit of the companies who pay up.

So just what are the benefits of paying Microsoft a licensing fee for free software, especially when said software was not developed by Microsoft? If these quiet settlements are any indication, the sole benefit would be to avoid being dragged through the courts by one of the largest software developers in the world. Seriously, what other benefit is there? Is there a collection of patent trolls jumping at the chance to sue companies using Linux that have yet to surface thanks to Microsoft's cradling licensing deals? Not that I have read about. The only patent holder jumping at the chance to sue over Linux is Microsoft itself.

What this really looks like to me is an old school protection racket in which the resident mob enters the new business or residence and demands protection money in order to protect said establishment from some malevolent threat.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 6:55am

    And yet it is Google who is accused of being a monopolistic bully.
    Amazing

     

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  2.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:02am

    Can someone clarify something for me here?
    Let's assume that Linux is infringing on the patents and Microsoft do have the right to go to court over it.
    Why are Linux users paying money to Microsoft then? How can Microsoft take them to court?
    What if, in the Apple v Samsung battle currently going on, Apple sued purchasers of the Samsung Galaxy? Isn't this suing a third party?

     

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  3.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:11am

    why assume the incorrect?

    Microsoft can take anyone to court, but linux infringes on no patents - there is a distinct lack of microsoft ever showing what patents are actually infringed, and B&N was taking microsoft to court over trying to claim these in confidentiality.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:13am

    Headline

    Did you mean 'Convinces' or 'Connives'?

     

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  5.  
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    whitebrow (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Has Linus Torvalds ever commented on this. I'd love to hear his thoughts.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:16am

    It sounds like Microsoft made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

     

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  7.  
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    PaulT (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:26am

    Re: why assume the incorrect?

    It's probably built on the same "evidence" that SCO used when claiming that Linux violated its copyright - i.e. somewhere between "none at all" and "kind of similar if you squint the right way". They're almost certainly not naming the patents since that would result in an army of fans, digging up reasons for those patents to be invalidated.

    Alas, we'll probably never find the truth since Microsoft can easily tie up the courts for years before they're even forced to name their evidence - again, look at the SCO fiasco for an example of this.

     

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  8.  
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    BoredSysAdmin (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:34am

    FAT Strikes back

    My best guess all android and other Linux mobile devices still use fat file systems (at least presented as such , while in Mass Storage Mode) to allow users to exchange files with their PC's, which are vast majority Windows. If they'd use not-Microsoft file system then driver installation would be required and much less desirable on the end user.
    Unfortunately there is no way around this

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:38am

    Patents on other things?

    I read a comment on another site saying that the license was not only for Linux.

    It is probable that Casio had to get a license for some other thing, and Microsoft threw in a license for Linux-related patents as a "bonus".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    pegr, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Re: FAT Strikes back

    As someone with a rooted Android, nope, no FAT here. SD cards are commonly formatted FAT, though, so there is FAT support in Android. I guess that counts.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Re: FAT Strikes back

    Just use 8.3 file names. The infamous FAT patents are for the long file name tricks only. Your file names will look like something out of MS-DOS, but other than that it will work fine.

    exFAT (which is required by SDXC) is more of a problem.

     

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  12.  
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    Squirrel Brains (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    One of the exclusive rights of a patent is use. Anyone who uses a product with an infringing patent can be sued. So, technically, Apple could sue purchasers of the Samsung Galaxy. It is generally scene as counter productive and it would be hard to take all the users to court, so they mainly focus on the supplier.

     

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  13.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:49am

    If you can't do, sue!

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Jon Henry, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:50am

    So, I own a company. Some guy down the street has a grievance with me...saying I owe him some money for letting me work on this street. He says pay me or something worse (IE broken legs and what not) will happen. I say ok and we sign paperwork saying such with no law deciding right or wrong. I spent money on something that brings me no added value.

    I run Casio. Microsoft has a grievance with me saying I owe them money because a free OS I use uses some of their patents. they say pay us licensing fees or something bad (IE we go to court and spend more money on defense than they wanted to sell me licenses for) will happen. I say ok and we sign paperwork saying such with no law deciding right or wrong. I spent money on something that brings us no added value.

    Why is the top situation illegal and the bottom not.

    Maybe we should outlaw patent settlements, force them to be decided in court. That may stop the extortion from the likes of microsoft and apple who probably wouldn't do well in court. The possibility of high legal fees as opposed to cheaper settlements is the deciding factor here. That environment will allow the extortion to run rampant. Force them to be decided in court and watch the frivolous stuff go away.

     

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  15.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 7:51am

    Re: Re: FAT Strikes back

    Yeah, but I dare you to find an OS distributed in the last 5 years that didn't support FAT--it's just one of those stupid prone-to-errors file layouts that everybody uses for some dumb reason.

     

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  16.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

    From what I understand, which is fairly good, yet obviously incomplete, the patents alleged are TCP/IP and Samba, along with some underlying filesystem stuff in ext4 that MS patented for NTFS.

    They didn't develop TCP/IP, but they bought the patents in the 90s.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:13am

    Yet the government is too busy abusing anti trust laws to go after Google. But patent trolls (not necessarily Microsoft) abusing the patent system to harm competition. That's OK.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

    The fact that the fundamental communications protocol used in the majority of consumer network connections is patented is absurd. It's akin to a company patenting asphalt and suing motorists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    Maybe we should outlaw patent settlements, force them to be decided in court. That may stop the extortion from the likes of microsoft and apple who probably wouldn't do well in court

    Simpler solution - get rid of patents!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Re: FAT Strikes back

    The problem is that Linux is a kernel, nothing more. The various distributions (eg. Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu Linux, etc.) are simply operating systems that use that kernel. I'm a Debian man myself and the hoops you have to jump through after a clean install to get multimedia to work (because of patents in my beloved United States) is ridiculous. I kinda wish they'd leave the proprietary stuff out of the kernel and give users the ability (like with LAME and ffmpeg) to reintegrate it later.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Paul, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:23am

    Bill had to buy new shoes for his 3 kids. You go Bill !!

     

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  22.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:23am

    Re:

    How are the two situations dissimilar? It's a simple legal distinction called campaign contributions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

    Agreed, but when it was actually patented it was a fundamental technological advance, because the routed worldwide network was impossible without it, and it included things such as NAT and basic fire walling.

     

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  24.  
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    Not Linus Torvalds, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 8:47am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    rangda (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 9:18am

    Re:

    Why is the top situation illegal and the bottom not.

    Well duh! They are obviously different in that the first one bypasses the "legal system" and prevents lawyers & politicians from getting their cut, and puts lawyers and judges (mostly former lawyers) out of work. THINK OF THE LAWYERS!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    I prefer "If you can't innovate, litigate!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    whitebrow (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re:

    exactly, thanks. What really gets me upset is when microsoft starts saying how it supports open source and points to suse and all the donations theyve made then they turn around and sue on BS patents.

    actually it pisses me off. sorry

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 11:03am

    This is a perfect example of FUD. Not the tripe that "FUDBuster" claims is FUD. This is good, old-fashioned, Microsoft FUD.

    "We claim to own 235 patents on Linux, but you're a sucker if you think we're going to reveal them to you!"

    So, the FUD is working overtime here. The fear, uncertainty and doubt of potential lawsuits is HUGE. If you don't buy protection from M$, they "might" come after you. "We don't want to sue a linux customer who could potentially be a Windows customer, too!" Well, isn't that fucking special.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 12:29pm

    So umm, Zack, lacking a profile to look at, can you tell us about yourself, about your background and how you feel that you are qualified to randomly question Microsoft about their licensing and enforcement thereof?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    The eejit (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re:

    It's a lot more akin to "find the Lady". And it's a lot more despicable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    Matt Tate (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    I'd just like to interject.

    What you're referring to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I've recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.

    Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called "Linux", and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project.

    There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called "Linux" distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux.

     

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  32.  
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    David Evans (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Re:

    Ehh... No way to do that. To outlaw 'patent settlements' you'd also have to be outlawing 'patent sales' and 'patent licensing'. The activities are too much the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 2:30pm

    Re:

    Perhaps you could provide a profile of yourself and why you feel qualified to question my qualifications to question Microsoft and their licensing and enforcement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    高橋俊朗, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    Microsoft Troll

    The cash cow holds a patent for the power button (http://www.patents.com/us-6477482.html). Ridiculous am I right? That company is a monopolistic patent pig. Sadly money and power rule.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    anon, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 2:46pm

    Re: why assume the incorrect?

    "linux infringes on no patents" - this simply is not ture.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    fb39ca4, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 3:25pm

    Kinda like how a company can lose a trademark of it becomes a part of everyday language, patents should be invalid if the company fails to stop widespread use of it's concept, such as how TCP/IP is used worldwide nowadays.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 3:51pm

    Guess the "war" between Microsoft and Linux isn't really over as they claimed, then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Tom Bourque, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 4:35pm

    Microsoft: You don't wants us to gets dem big city lawyers to comes over heres and messes yous up? Does ya?

    Company X: Is that a threat? We haven't done anything wrong.

    Microsoft: Yous been usin' dat other guyses stuff insteads of ourses.

    Company X: So what? We don't like your stuff. It's expensive and doesn't suit our needs.

    Microsoft: Listens... Yous is gonna use our stuff or we're gonna call in Johnny Two-Patents and Jimmy The Troll! Den yous is gonna be sorries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 4:53pm

    Re: What you're referring to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux ...

    No, it is in fact Linux were referring to here. Im not aware of anybody claiming that GNU infringes any patents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

    Care to offer proof? It's easier to prove there is infringement than to prove a lack, so you should have mounds of evidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Re:

    I would like to see a citation to this. 'Induced infringement' is just another added charge on the original infringer, not their customers. These things can get confusing to us outside the field of law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 5:17pm

    Re:

    Yes, because we must have /qualifications/ to ask questions! A little piece of paper from a commercial enterprise (university/college/trade school) makes us instant experts, not personal experience in the field.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 4:46am

    Re: Re: FAT Strikes back

    IIRC the patents are on the combination of long and short filenames. If you just use one of these methods, you're not violating the patents:

    http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/Linux-developers-want-to-circumvent-VFATs-patent- problem-742253.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 4:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: why assume the incorrect?

    "... when it was actually patented it was a fundamental technological advance, because the routed worldwide network was impossible without it ..."

    Perhaps you could provide a reference to this nebulous patent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Connie New, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    So free things are worth paying for...

    The license payment is just a way to get out of hassle for companies not used to the American patent system. Now for a company to continue to use a free (whatever definition of fee you want to apply) piece software, despite having to pay some corporate marauders threatening some FUD, must imply
    1) that the free software is worth something...
    2) MS recognises this worth and chooses to monetise this using any means foul or fair, as the developers have opted not to...
    Clearly unfair, but that is business without moral standards. We sponsor these practices, as we use MS products.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Paul, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    Re: FAT Strikes back

    The FAT patent should never have been granted, as there is no innovation in the file system. Here is a list of file systems, several older than FAT:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_file_systems

    The problem lies with the U.S. Patent Office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Athan Middleton, Oct 18th, 2011 @ 5:46am

    Hi

    This is going to be an interesting one to watch for. Hope you will update us with regards to this. Thanks and Good day.

    -Athan
    how to stop a cough

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    logo branding, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    When it comes to brand strategy there are many aspects that you need to consider. Let's talk about three that can make a big difference for your business. The first is developing a logo that your customers will remember, the second is developing a tagline that people will remember, and the third is creating a positive business image that people can associate with your logo and tagline. Let's take a look at a few branding tips to help you in your small business branding endeavor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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